Author Archives: jnordstrom4864

About jnordstrom4864

I am the Director of Spiritual Care at Christ Community. I enjoy reading, travel, and family. I also find great satisfaction in walking with people through all of life's transitions.

“WHY SHOULD MY FACE NOT BE SAD?”

 

grieving

Just before Christmas I visited a man who has been incarcerated. We have been friends for a long time. The recent circumstances of my friend’s life have motivated me to remain close to him.

During the course of our conversation, I asked, “What seems to cause you the greatest struggle?” He lowered his head. After a brief silence, he tearfully responded, “I question, Will I ever experience true happiness again?” He continued haltingly, pensively, rehearsing the actions of his past that had put him out of touch from all that once meant everything to him.

The book of Nehemiah traces the actions of Nehemiah in leading the rebuilding of Jerusalem. The sin of the nation of Israel had placed them far from their beloved homeland. The Bible has a lot to say about the “wages of sin.” Sin always leads us to places that we don’t want to be.

We don’t know all of the sentiments of Nehemiah as he lived through the “prison” of his captivity. There must have been something about his character, in spite of his circumstances, that caused his rise to being cupbearer to the king. I have often heard that the isolation of imprisonment only enhances ones skills as a law breaker. Nehemiah was different. His character remained in tact. He was promoted to a trustworthy job. There were reasons for him to be a happy captive.

Any peace of mind that he might have had was destroyed, however, as he conversed with one of his fellows who had just returned from Jerusalem. He simply asked his friend a question. “How are things going in Judah?” Hearing a description of the fallen down walls of Jerusalem and the gates being burned with fire stole any contentment that he once had.

My imprisoned friend has often said to me, “If I could just find a “re-wind” button. If I could somehow erase the wrong that I have done. If I could somehow heal the hurt. But I can’t.” Why should his face not be sad?

Nehemiah couldn’t hold back the tears. He mourned for days. His visits to the king couldn’t conceal his sadness. It was on one of those days of sadness that the king questioned his cupbearer. “Why is your face so sad, since you are not sick?” Nehemiah responded with a question of his own. “Why should my face not be sad? The city, the place of my fathers tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?” Nehemiah 2:3

The tears of Nehemiah and the nobility of King Artaxerxes, resulted in the end of a sad story. Nehemiah was granted release to return to his homeland for the purpose of rebuilding the city of Jerusalem.

WHY SHOULD MY FACE NOT BE SAD?

Statistics make it clear that some people cannot survive life outside of prison. Years of bondage seem to acclimate some to the security that imprisonment provides.

The Christian life is not a call to perpetual sadness. There is reason, however to experience sadness in a world like ours. Our recent Christmas season became clouded as we were forced to ponder the actions of a lone gunman who masacred more than twenty small school children. “Why should my face not be sad?”

The words of an old Gospel song seem to catch the sentiments of my remarks. “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door and I can’t feel at home in this world any more.”

Paul captured these thoughts another way. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

Like my incarceraed friend, like Nehemiah, like Paul, let’s not get so acclimated to the prison of the present that we lose the capacity to be saddened by “the wages of sin.”

“Why should my face not be sad?”

Farewell, my blogging group. It’s been a fun year.


BE CAREFUL

GUARDRAILS

 Ephesians 5; Revelations 2,3

As 2012 continues to wind down, I have been doing a shoulder check and reflecting on some of the good things that have come my way through the year.

One of the most impacting teachings that I have heard this year did not come from our own pulpit, but through Andy Stanley.  Andy Stanley pastors a “mega” church in Atlanta.  Early this year, I heard his teaching on “Guardrails.”  Andy pointed out in his opening message how valuable guardrails are.  Guardrails are designed to keep us in bounds.  When we hit them, it may do a little damage, but they prevent us from much more destructive things like going over the side of the bridge or entering a line of oncoming traffic.  The obvious application was that the Bible erects guardrails to keep us from getting out of bounds and ultimately destroying ourselves.

Ephesians 5:15 says, “Be very careful then how you live…”

Andy Stanley effectively pointed out God’s concern for us in warning us by placing checks and balances, guardrails so to speak, in our lives.

So much for Andy Stanley.  I thank him for his good work.

I find the book of Ephesians to be a noble work. I notice as I move through its six chapters how many verses I have underscored.  I find notes to myself in the margins throughout the book.  The Apostle Paul did a great job in turning the Ephesians from idolatry to the Savior. I have often run to the Ephesians letter for support through the years.  Paul had a lot to say bout the clear distinction between the Christian life and the sinful life. His instruction on the conduct of the Christian family has blessed the Body of Christ immensely.

Included in today’s reading is Revelation 2.  Chapters 2, 3, and 4 are addressed to the seven churches of Asia Minor.  The Revelator does an assessment as to how each church is performing, now some years after their founding.

To the Ephesians, the Spirit addresses the fact that this church was known for hard work, and perseverance.  “I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men. You have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false.  You have endured hardship for my name and have not grown weary.” Rev. 2: 2,3

 

Any church would be thrilled to get such a report, especially from the Apostle Paul. However, the story does not end there.

“…you have forsaken your first love.  Remember the height from which you have fallen!  Repent and do the things you did at first.” Rev. 2: 4,5

What happened in Ephesus has happened in lots of churches, perhaps yours, or mine.  The folks in Ephesus held on to their good works.  A sense of superiority had come over them.  They could see and criticize in others what they could not see in themselves.  They kept their good works but lost their Grace.

Why not reread Ephesians in light of the guardrails God has placed upon you.

 

 


LAVISH LOVE

 

 

manger and cross

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Dear friends, now we are children of God and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is.  Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as he is pure”

 

Our church has been through a number of changes this year.  In January we decided to call this the Year of the Word.  A plan for reading the Bible through in one year was selected and a number of us chose to write a blog based on some portion of that day’s Bible reading.  My day each week was Monday and it has been my pleasure to comment on a portion of the daily reading that spoke to me.

 

Well, to be honest, it hasn’t always been a pleasure.  More than once my deadline approached and I had produced nothing.  A time or two, I even failed to accomplish the task.  Now it’s December and we are close to completing our year.  I must say that the exercise has been one of positive discipline.

 

Today’s text is from I John 3:1-3.  In characteristic manner the beloved Apostle John sets out to remind us who we really are.  While it is the devil’s business to erode our self- worth and to remind of us of our failures, the words of John reminds us that Grace has made us the objects of His love upon us.

 

One of the battles that I fought as a youngster was one of low self-esteem. I’m not sure of all the reasons for that, but it was hard to see myself as much more than average.  For me, finding Christ was a threshold into a whole new life. The church provided me with new brothers and sisters, and a positive climate of encouragement.

 

The Apostle John exults in the love that the Father has “lavished” upon us.  We are not asked to perform in any way to prove our worthiness.  When we believe the claims of Jesus and turn from our way to His, we cross a threshold of great security; security in this life and in the life to come.

 

As I have done these weekly blogs, I have observed how alike we all are.  We fight the same battles; we succumb to the same temptations; we exhibit the same pridefulness.

In I John 2, the writer comments on what it is like to live in human flesh.

 

I John 2:16, 17

“For every thing in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

 

The greatest gift of my life is having found Jesus Christ at a young age.  The security that I once longed for was found in Him.  I have been saved from a defeated life.  The community of the Body of Christ has furnished me a family that has supported me through the years.

 

My wish for all who read this would be to join me in celebrating His coming into our world.  His life began in a manger and ended on a cross.  He has “lavished” his love upon us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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KEEP A CLEAR HEAD

“The end of all things is near, therefore be clear minded and self controlled, so you can pray. Above all else, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sin.” 1 Peter 4:7,8 (The Message)

With Thanksgiving behind us, we now launch into what is touted as “THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF YEAR.” Depending on your frame of mind this may be true or totally foreign to you.

Clearly, the Advent which is upon us should be a blessed time for we who have experienced the gift of God’s grace. All too often, the drain of the traffic and trade of the season blurs its true meaning. Our conversations become cluttered with high prices and wonder about the economic cliff that may loom ahead.

The milieu of 1 Peter has to do with persecution. Now there is a subject that we don’t talk much about. The favorite “P” word of the Western church is definitely not persecution, but rather prosperity. The audience of I Peter is a scattered group, a church on the run, trying to avoic the danger of losing their lives for Jesus’ sake.

Persecution can cause either growth or bitterness in the Christian life. Our response determines the result. Writing to the Jewish believers struggling in the midst of persecution, Peter encourages them to, “think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.” 4:12

I don’t know about you, but I have certainly not lived a life of persecution. We could all talk about an incident here and there where difficulty felt like persecution.

Clear mindedness seems in-congruent to a life of persecution. Peter makes it a precursor to effective prayer. Come to think about it, I don’t do my best praying when things are going great. The need to pray seems less urgent when I have enough money to pay the bills and realize that we have a little left over or my health, my job, my kids, etc. are doing well. “The end of all things is near” doesn’t move me nearly as much when everything is going my way. With me, clear mindedness best serves me when I am spiritually challenged.


THANKS–FOR THE MEMORIES

 

2 Timothy 1:3-5  “I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience that without ceasing I have remembrance of you in my prayers night and day;  Greatly desiring to see you being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy;  When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in you, which dwelled first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that is in you also.”

Last week, I shared some comments on the little book of Philemon.  The Apostle Paul both flexed his apostolic muscles and his tenderness as he rejoined a runaway slave with his original owner.  “Receive Onesimus back for loves sake,” he begged.

Here again in 2 Timothy Paul focuses not on a particular church, but on an individual–Timothy.  Paul had accumulated a lot of history with Timothy.  He won him to Christ out of a mixed religious family.  Timothy’s mother, Eunice, a Christ follower, was married to a Greek.  Paul had become kind of a surrogate father in the Gospel to young Timothy.

How great it would be if we all had an Apostle Paul in our lives; a mentor who loves us enough to be both direct and yet tender. 

Paul, in today’s text, is reaching the end of his tenure as one of the greatest leaders who ever lived.  It is now time for him to pass the mantle of leadership from himself to one he trusted.  He found that trust in this rather young but faithful follower Timothy.

The consideration of losing Paul had brought Timothy to tears.  Mindful of his tears, Paul applies a tender strategy.  He reminds Timothy that he will not be left alone in an alien world.  Grandmother Lois and mother Eunice are held up as the models who had securely founded Timothy in his faith.

Perhaps you can relate to Timothy.  You have had a faithful mom and dad to guide you through challenges of life.  Parents and grandparents provide such a wall of defense for a fledgling Christian.

Paul continues his attempt to cheer Timothy.  “Remember to stir up the gift of God that you received by the laying on of hands.”  (My paraphrase) “God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind.”

 As I write these comments, I am remembering just such a couple who came to assist in the ministry of Phyllis and me.  They were young and bright eyed as they viewed the future of their ministry with us.  We grew to be very close.  During the six wonderful years they were with us, we worked, prayed, and laughed together.  We mentored them and they mentored our teen-aged children.  The youth program grew significantly under the leadership of Mike and Vicki.

 Eventually, the inevitable came to pass.  Mike and Vicki had matured enough in ministry that they were invited to become the senior pastors in Mike’s home church in Minnesota.  It was a sad day for all of us; but an important one for them.

I’ll never forget that day when their furniture was loaded in the truck.  We delayed our last moments together as long as we could.  Those moments were filled with tears and embraces.  We tried to share hope for their future while we wondered what we would ever do without them.

The ensuing years have provided many opportunities for the Bachmeyer’s to experience the pain and pleasure of ministry.  Like Timothy, they have exhibited great faithfulness in ministry.  And they have passed on their love for the Lord to their children and grandchildren.  “Their children rise up to call them blessed.”

There is a  tightness in my throat as I share this poignant story from our history.  If I could say anything to Mike and Vicki today, I would choose yet other words of Paul to the Philippians.

I thank my God every time I remember you.

PS  It just occurred to me as I was getting ready to post this, that it would appear on Thanksgiving week.  Is there a phone call, or a card, or a written note that you might want to send to someone who has mentored or helped you?    Have a Blessed Thanksgiving


THE APPEAL

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                Philemon

 

I tend to have a fascination with words.  I am challenged by “Words with Friends.”  Crossword puzzles are placed strategically around our house.  I find words a real cure for boredom.

Words and the way we use them are strategic building blocks affecting the way we accomplish certain tasks.  A nation can change its mind when influenced by the right words.  Churchill motivated his nation to resist her enemies with the use of words.

Perhaps you have letters filed away that you have received at critical times in your life.  On occasion you pull them out simply for the value of the encouragement that they still possess.  My ninety-seven year old father-in-law has carefully filed letters that he has received over the history of his life.  He’s even framed a few.  Now, unable to move about as he once did, he often pulls out a letter of encouragement from days gone by, and his spirits are lifted.

Recently, I received a phone call from an old physician friend.  Forty years ago, Dr. Castro, my family’s physician moved away from our hometown.  Having enjoyed his friendship and care for several years, I penned him a letter of appreciation when I heard that he was leaving.

Imagine my surprise when just recently I received a phone call from Dr. Castro.  And it had to do with the letter I had written four decades previously.  “I remember you letter” he began.  “In fact, I have it memorized.  It has encouraged me over the years.”

The real purpose of his call was to ask for another letter.  Dr. Castro was being hit by a frivolous law suit.  He was asking for a letter of appeal to the courts.  Of course, I was flattered, and soon had the needed letter in the mail.

My interest in Scripture rarely finds me running to the book of Philemon for encouragement.  This interesting little letter is more like a post card.  Paul’s message to Philemon was both brief and to the point. Philemon is a letter of appeal written from Paul’s prison cell.  The apostles concern was for one of his young converts, Onesimus.  Years prior, Onesimus, a runaway slave belonging to Philemon, found himself in the hands of Paul.  Paul had led him to Christ, and led him in building a new life as a Christian.  Sensing his responsibility to his brother in Christ, he writes to Philemon asking him to receive Onesimus back to his old relationship. He wanted to be assured the Onesimus would be received again into Philemon’s care without any threat of reprisal.

A couple of options were open to the Apostle regarding the handling of this challenge.  As an Apostle, he could have exercised his authority in requiring the former owner to vindicate the runaway slave.

Consider the words of Paul’s appeal.  “Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting. Yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—being such a one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.  I appeal to you for my son Onesimus whom I have begotten while in my chains.  I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart.”  V. 8,9,10,12.

Why was this personal letter included in the canon?  After all, it was not written to a specific church. The more I thought about it, the more important it’s purpose became.  Paul’s attitude of forgiveness and restitution is a lesson for all of us.

Is there someone in your life who needs forgiven and restored by you?  Could you be a catalyst between two others in this process.  Paul’s appeal appears not only to be an appeal to Philemon, but to all of us.

 

 

 

 


Heaven? Heaven!

 

 

 

Jeremiah 41 Hebrews 11: 1-19

 

 

 

Last week I attended a meeting of ministers and other care-givers in order to learn more about ministering to the hurting.  As I waited for the meeting to begin, the elderly man next to me introduced himself.  I soon learned that he had lived his life as a pastor and was now retired.

 

Having reached retirement age myself, I began to ask him questions as to what retirement was like for him.  As I listened to his description of a typical day in his life, I wasn’t sure whether I could manage the lack of activity that he described.

 

At one point in our conversation I asked him about his hopes for the future.  His answer was in the form of a question, “Do you ever think about heaven?” The humorous side of me wondered if I appeared as one close to the grave.  My serious answer, however, was, “Yes, I do think about heaven.  A lot.”

 

I have stood at the bedside of quite a number of people throughout the years who were dealing with the last moments of their mortality.  For us as Christians, the mystery of death is the final event prior to our entrance into an eternal relationship with our Lord.

 

Hebrews 11 is replete with brief case histories of men and women who lived lives of faith, and as a result, did exploits.

 

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.”  Hebrews 11:1,2.

 

Faith caused the heroes of Hebrews 11 to live their lives against the grain of their culture.  Faith caused Noah to respond to a divine warning and build the ark that saved of his own household, and humanity.  His faith condemned the rest of the world to annihilation.

 

Abraham offered up his son Isaac on a sacrificial altar, having concluded by faith that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead.  He 11:19.

 

Pondering these examples of faith causes me to wonder about our own accomplishments brought about by faith.

 

The retired pastor who quizzed me about my thoughts on heaven spoke glowingly that morning about what was in store for us as Christ followers. We exchanged ideas as to what we thought heaven was going to be like.  Faith grants us position to talk about things that have not occurred as though they had.

 

Reading Hebrews 11 should energize our faith.  I have no problem believing the stories of these heroes.  Their exploits accomplished by faith have propped up the faith for all of us at times when we needed strength for our wavering faith.

 

As Christians, we don’t live just in the past.  I heard a Christian song this morning as I went about my day’s schedule.  The song was a strong enunciation of the fact that Jesus was coming back to this earth.  For those of us who have been Christians for a long time, we have been sufficiently reminded of the imminence of His coming.  Our faith has caused us to cling to that hope.

 

Yes, I do think about heaven.  The very foundation of our relationship with God was initiated by faith.  “For by Grace are you saved by Faith.”  Our faith gives us a new lens through which we see the world.  Like the men and women of Hebrews 11, we can dream about heaven, though we have never been there.

 

Since that meeting on care giving, I have thought more about improving my grip on faith than how I might improve my ability to care for people.